When the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran was signed, many Iranians believed that it would mean real change in their economy, which had been crippled by the sanctions levied by the United States and other members of the international community. The deal was seen as a chance for the Iranian people to connect with the international community, taking their place on the global market.
However, over three years later, the Iranian economy is in a crisis. Its currency is dropping in value and is now estimated to be worth almost half of what it was when Rouhani was elected for his first term as president. To counter this, the Iranian regime is trying to set the exchange rate and threatening harsh punishments for those who dare to refuse to exchange at their artificial rate.
Riot police have even been sent to arrest money changers, as the regime attempts to send a message that they will not except anyone defying them. One senior cleric even advocated for the execution of money changers to send a message to the others about how deadly serious the consequences are for not going along with the mullahs.
The BBC pointed out that part of the reason that Iran’s economy has not rebounded since the lifting of the sanctions is that Iran has been unable to attract any major international banks to the country. Iranian businesses that are involved in importing or exporting have to rely on unofficial currency rates, making it difficult to have any consistency.
Iran exports approximately $40 billion in goods, in addition to their oil exports. However, they are importing $50 billion worth of goods. It has been hard for the country to bring that money back into Iran.
The banks are not eager to do business with the regime, fearing that their companies could use them to launder money and fund terrorism. Many of these international banks also have the legitimate concerns about negatively impacting their relationships with other countries, noticeably the United States. These factors make them wary to do business with Iran.
Poor planning, mismanagement, and corruption also play a role in the economic troubles that the country is facing. The Iranian people are the ones who are suffering from the choices of the mullahs. It must be noted that many live in poverty, struggling to find work and care for their families.
Meanwhile, the regime continues to spend money on its military ventures throughout the region, often at the expense of subsidies for the neediest Iranians or at the expense of other social programs.
Protests began in December 2017 over a leaked budget that showed funding going to pet religious organizations and an increase in military spending, while subsidies for the poor were being cut. Those protests have not stopped, and the regime fears that these continued protests are going to lead to a larger uprising. As they attempt to clamp down on the Iranian people, the anger against the regime continues to grow.
“It is important to continue watching the economic situation in Iran, because historically economic issues have typically led to the most significant political unrests in that country,” said Ellen R. Wald, Ph.D.
Many in the Iranian resistance see these continued protests as the final blow for the Iranian regime. In light of this, the Iranian coalition of resistance groups, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) whose largest member is the PMOI/MEK, have shown support for the protests and continue to bring international attention to the issues within Iran. For the Iranian people, change in the economy may only come with the end of the regime.